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Wall St, Hollywood, tech get seats at table for Xi state dinner

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The East and West Coasts were heavily represented on the guest list for Friday's state dinner in honour of Chinese President Xi Jinping with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg joining Blackstone Group LP's Stephen Schwarzman and director Lee Daniels at the White House.

[WASHINGTON] The East and West Coasts were heavily represented on the guest list for Friday's state dinner in honour of Chinese President Xi Jinping with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg joining Blackstone Group LP's Stephen Schwarzman and director Lee Daniels at the White House.

The tech and entertainment worlds dominated on the guest list released by the White House for the event hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The list also included current and former US government officials and officials from China.

Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger, a top donor to Mr Obama's campaigns, was among those invited. In addition to being a top movie producer, Disney is building a US$5.5 billion theme park and resort in Shanghai. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix Inc. and Christopher Dodd, a former senator who is now CEO of Motion Picture Association of America also were on the list.

China's fast-growing market has drawn the interest of US entertainment companies. Chinese movie theaters earned US$4.8 billion last year, up 34 per cent from 2013, according to the MPAA.

From the financial industry, James Gorman, chief executive of Morgan Stanley, Laurence D Fink, CEO of BlackRock and Carlyle Group LP's David Rubenstein were among the guests.

For Mr Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook, the dinner was their second encounter with Mr Xi this week. They were among a group of US and Chinese business leaders who were addressed by the Chinese leader at a gathering in Seattle before Mr Xi flew to Washington on Thursday.

The dinner and reception culminate Mr Xi's two-day visit to the US capital, where he and Mr Obama reached new agreements on issues including climate change, market-access in China and military cooperation.

The main course for the ninth state dinner of Mr Obama's presidency is lobster and lamb. China is the only country to have had two state dinners during this administration. Mr Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, was honored with a state dinner in January 2011 during his final trip to Washington as president. The only other state dinner this year was for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The dinner in the White House East Room capped a sometimes contentious visit in which Mr Obama and Mr Xi agreed to disagree on issues ranging from cybersecurity to human rights. After the dinner ends, Mr Xi is scheduled to leave Washington for a stop in New York.

The White House, which had halted releasing the names of wines being poured with state dinners after scrutiny of their costs, resumed the practice for the Xi dinner. Bottles of the Pride Mountain vintner select 2012 vintage merlot being poured with the lamb sell for US$80 a bottle, according to the website for the Sonoma County vineyard.

Shaoxing wine, a Chinese fermented rice wine used for both cooking and drinking, will be poured with the first course, followed by a US$30 a bottle 2014 viognier from Penner-Ash in Oregon. Dessert will be accompanied by another California wine from the Schramsberg vineyard, a dry sparkling 2011 cremant demi-sec.

R&B recording artist Ne-Yo will provide the entertainment.

BLOOMBERG